Tech Hub

Digital Technologies X Global Affairs
 

The Tech hub brings together a diversity of expertise to examine digital technologies in global affairs from a social science perspective.

The Geneva Graduate Institute has been exploring the question of technology since its early beginnings because of the prominent role technologies have played throughout the history of international relations, and the strong link in particular between technological innovation, security and power. Digital technology is bringing along many opportunities but it is also generating new threats. In order to explore this two sided impact and some of its more paradoxical consequences, social sciences are indispensable. The Tech Hub is connecting technological developments with their socialogical, political, human and governance context and consequences. Although its main focus is on digital technologies, it shall also consider other technologies that may be relevant to international relations.

With the considerable challenges that lie ahead, we must not only create opportunities for collective exploration and understanding but also for the deployment of new visions, constructive solutions and propositions for a desirable, sustainable, inclusive and plural future. Our expertise and research in the social sciences allow us to nourish these visions and proposals for the future, which in turn must guide the development of current and future technologies.

About us
 

Digital technologies are increasingly recognized as a defining feature of contemporary world affairs. Internet, social media, and other technology advances such as blockchain and artificial intelligence have unleashed powerful forces that shape and reshape local, national, and international life. These technologies trigger unprecedented transformations for our societies, polities, economies and arguably even for our individual and collective identities, for the nature of the social link, for our own sense of self and possibly even for the very definition of what it is to be human. 

While for too long the domain and prerogative of digital and data scientists, it is quite clear that social sciences and humanities have a huge role to play when it comes to reflecting on the social, environmental, and economic dynamics that frame and construct the development of digital technologies, as well as their regulation and governance. Given the permeability of our societies to technologies, it is essential to include social sciences, human rights principles, and sustainability principles in the design and development of technologies, as well as the views of a diversity of stakeholders. The reality is that the Institute is already producing research and knowledge on those questions and diffusing it through teaching and events.

The Tech Hub is a transdisciplinary and horizontal initiative that supports all departments and research centers of the Institute. It is supported by a Board of Directors with representatives from the six departments, as well as researchers, and heads of IT and administration. The managing office is led by Dr. Jérôme Duberry

Activities


The Tech Hub's activities revolve around two main objectives: 

1) Supporting research, teaching, and dialogue on and with digital technologies at the Institute. Several activities are offered each year to strengthen digital skills and literacy of Master Students, researchers (PhD candidates, Postdocs, Researchers, Professors) and Faculty, including: 

  • workshops for researchers on computational social science methods, 
  • course for Master students on data analytics with R,
  • workshop for faculty on online teaching and facilitation,
  • series of experiential and participatory events on futures in collaboration with La Fabrique 

2) Expressing our own voice on digital technologies: the second objective is to position the Institute on digital technology issues in Geneva and beyond. This should enable us to develop and make our own voice heard on these issues and attract researchers, students, policymakers, and projects. This includes: 

  • podcast and video series on digital technologies, 
  • conference and keynote events with a diversity of stakeholders,
  • networks of excellence on transversal topics. 

Digital Tech at the Institute 


As part of its main strategy, the Institute seeks to develop digitally-driven innovation in teaching and research, as well as information technology (IT) services. At the same time, as a research institution focusing on global challenges and their impacts, the digital turn has become one of its fundamental and policy-oriented research areas. 

In terms of research, a growing number of researchers and PhD candidates analyse the impact of digitalisation on international relations and development issues. A few examples of research topics are cybersecurity, hybrid threats and warfare, surveillance technologies, internet governance, digital diplomacy, digital heath, digital rights, digital trust, digital economy, the future of work, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, AI and humanitarian law, AI and peace negotiations among others. The institute has also developed an expertise on using digital and technologies as new research methods, including computational social scientific methods and big data analytics. 

In terms of teaching, its Master, PhD, and executive education courses are increasingly focused on the effects of digitalisation on society and the economy, and more generally the global system. Some examples of courses are ‘Digital Approaches to Conflict Prevention’, ‘Digital Innovation in Nature Conservation’, ‘Internet, Technology & International Law’, ‘Introduction to Digital Social Science Research’, ‘Technology, Society and Decision-making’, ‘The Politics of Digital Design’, ‘AI and Politics’, ‘Internet Governance and Economics’, ‘Technology and Development’, ‘Digital Diplomacy and Power Relations on Cyberspace’. Digital skills workshops are also organised for students to provide them with basic digital competence for their future professional or academic life, including big data analysis, introduction to programming with R and Python, and data analysis in various contexts).

The Institute is now involved in the development of a doctoral school on Digital Studies. This is a partnership with UNIL, EPFL, UNIGE, UNINE and UNIFR and will be hosted by the CUSO (Conférence Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale). As part of our membership in SwissUniversities, we also offer since 2019 a very complete program for our doctoral students – Strengthening Digital Skills in Education. The second phase of that program runs from 2021 to 2024.

The Institute also organises workshops, seminars, film screenings, and other events on the digital turn, ranging from the digital divide and the governance and regulatory aspects of data to cybersecurity

Swiss PeaceTech Alliance


In March 2022, the Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID) and the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL) have signed a Declaration of Intent to enter a partnership to co-create the Swiss Alliance for PeaceTech (SAPT): Integrating Expertise and Knowhow for Innovation at the Nexus of Science, Technology, and Peace.  

This partnership has a dual purpose: 

  • co-creating concrete tech projects by utilizing cutting-edge technological and scientific innovation to support the prevention and resolution of violence and conflict, and facilitate peace promotion; 
  • co-creating and applying novel approaches and methodologies to include front-line peacebuilding peacemaking principles, knowledge and know-how in the design of new technologies.

Responding to the growing need to address conflict and build peace in both physical and virtual worlds, the SAPT partnership will stimulate peace innovation through concrete solutions based on technology; and vice versa, it will support the inclusion of peace promotion peacebuilding and peacemaking principles in technological innovation, with a critical eye on sustainability and the long-term effects of technology in peace and conflict. This ground-breaking approach will leverage on the long tradition of Switzerland as neutral actor pioneering in peace promotion, as well as on its well-known excellence in science and technology. The SAPT partnership’s distinction is that it works into both directions, from ‘tech to peace’, and from ‘peace to tech’, to avoid the pitfalls of solutionism. Facilitating this intrinsically complementary two-way vision, the SAPT partnership will become the first full-scope implementing PeaceTech capacity worldwide, positioning Switzerland as a pioneering referent in this emerging field. 

While the core priority of the SAPT is to leverage the interdisciplinary knowledge and know-how of both institutions to design and implement tangible PeaceTech solutions, this will not be possible without engaging a critical mass of experts, organizations, initiatives and other partnerships at national – including from the Swiss Confederation –, and international levels, and facilitating interactions and exchanges therein. Accordingly, IHEID and EPFL will join forces with the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (GPP), leveraging on its acknowledged traction to act as a ‘knowledge hub’ to advance new knowledge and understanding of peacebuilding issues and contexts, and to facilitate the interaction on peacebuilding between different institutions and sectors in Switzerland and worldwide.

Lead and contact details: Dr. Achim Wennmann and Dr. Jérôme Duberry 

Digital Innovation - Global Excellence Network
 

Technology is profoundly changing every sector and every country around the globe. Thus, integrating a global inclusive perspective into digital innovation, connecting diverse voices from the Global South and the Global North to shape innovation for a vibrant global economy and society that works for all, becomes a priority.

In this context, the Global Excellence Network for Innovation aims to be a creative space that promotes and showcases collaborative solutions for the world of today and tomorrow. The Network is an open community of research and practice, committed to bringing together leading voices from government, academia, civil society, and industry to define the parameters of an inclusive world of digital innovation.

Its mission is four-fold:

  • Co-create and co-design policy, business, and governance tools that enable society and the world of work benefit from emerging digital innovations.
  • Support the next generation of innovation leaders, and engage with regulators and with cutting-edge technology innovators to keep pace with the speed of technological change, and bridge the gap between technology, innovation and policy.
  • Drive change and foster links with International Geneva to share and scale transformation solutions and best practices.
  • Develop research and build capacity based on a transdisciplinary and multi-sectorial approach and around 10 thematic streams or pillars: Science, Technology, and Innovation Policies; Inclusive DigitalEconomies and Democracies; Grassroots Social Innovation; Inclusive Business and Labour Market; Technology and Climate Innovations; AI and Health Innovation; Innovation in Education and Education for Innovation; Innovation from a Youth Perspective; Gendered Innovations; The Future of Innovation.

Chair and contact details: Dr Maria Mexi

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

This research cluster, based on the Graduate institute’s thematic “Digital Technologies & Artificial Intelligence”, deals with issues such as innovation and social change, cybersecurity and cyberthreats, AI and the future of work and digital technologies.